DOI: 10.3390/ani14060889 ISSN: 2076-2615

Nutrient Composition and Feed Hygiene of Alfalfa, Comparison of Feed Intake and Selected Metabolic Parameters in Horses Fed Alfalfa Haylage, Alfalfa Hay or Meadow Hay

Marlene Köninger, Astrid von Velsen-Zerweck, Carolin Eiberger, Christof Löffler, Anja Töpper, Christian Visscher, Bernd Reckels, Ingrid Vervuert
  • General Veterinary
  • Animal Science and Zoology

The aim of this study was to examine the nutrient composition and feed hygiene of alfalfa as well as investigate the feed intake, blood, urine and faecal parameters of horses fed alfalfa haylage (AS) compared with alfalfa hay (AH) and meadow hay (MH). A total of 11 geldings were fed ad libitum (2.1% dry matter (DM) of body weight (BW)) with alfalfa haylage, alfalfa hay and meadow hay (MH) in a Latin square design. On days 0 and 21 of the feeding period, blood samples were analysed for kidney and liver parameters. Faecal samples were analysed for pH, DM and short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Spontaneous urine was collected during the feeding period to analyse selected parameters. Forage was analysed in terms of feed hygiene and crude nutrients. In several feed samples of AS, AH and MH, the microbial reference ranges were exceeded for product-typical and spoilage-indicating bacteria and fungi. Crude nutrient analyses revealed a median crude protein content of 139 (138/142) g/kg DM for AS, which was similar to that in AH (127–135 g/kg DM) and substantially higher than in MH (79.1–87.7 g/kg DM). The calcium level in AS (11.3 g/kg DM) was significantly higher than that in MH (4.00–4.95 g/kg DM) but not compared with that in AH (9.80–10.4 g/kg DM). All blood parameters were within the reference ranges. Fractional excretion (FE)Ca for AS-fed horses ranged from 8.13 to 22.0%; the FECa for AH-fed horses ranged from 6.48 to 24.8%; the FECa for MH-fed horses ranged from 6.69 to 53.2%. No significant differences were found in faecal pH or SCFA content in AS-fed horses compared with AH-fed and MH-fed horses. We concluded that alfalfa haylage provides an alternative forage for equine nutrition.

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